ODOT unveils new logo for I-5 Rose Quarter project

Old logo on top, new one on the bottom.

Remember about a year ago when we reported that the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) had invested in a rebranding effort for their I-5 Rose Quarter project?

While the project remains mired in federal red tape, ODOT has rolled out bits and pieces of the new look. The new logo is a big departure from the old one, and early reviews tell us it might not have the desired impact of reducing criticism of the project.

The original logo was pretty standard. It showed several modes — biking, walking, driving, and transit — coming together in an attempt to highlight the project’s multimodal elements (if it ever gets built, the project will widen I-5 and add bikeways and other changes to surface streets above it). The color scheme was a safe blue and green.

As you can see, the new logo comes with a new color palette. Gone are the blues and greens. They’ve been swapped for dark browns and oranges. And instead of the transportation-themed logo, ODOT has chosen to use an architectural element. The pointed dome is the cupola that once adorned the Hill Block Building on the corner of North Williams and Russell. The dome was built in 1910 when that part of town was still known as the city of Albina and the Hill Block was the center of what would become a vibrant business district in the through the first half of the 20th century.

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Cupola in its natural state.
(City of Portland archives)

In 1975, the Hill Block was demolished as part of the “urban renewal” plan to expand Legacy Emanuel Hospital and the cupola was saved and moved to nearby Dawson Park where it has remained as the cap to the park’s gazebo ever since.

Suffice it to say, this cupola is more than just a historic architectural remnant.

Given the continuous controversy and widespread criticism of the I-5 project, and the historical context of the Williams/Albina area that has been marked by racism, disinvestment and displacement due to the hospital, gentrification, the Rose Garden, and I-5 itself, ODOT is desperate to distance themselves from that past as they work to complete the project.

When we asked an ODOT official about the reason for the rebranding in April 2021, they said, “It’s an effort to better understand how we are showing up in communities.” A consultant hired by ODOT to design and implement the new brand told committee members the current brand works fine for a transportation project, but it no longer fits, “After the shift of the project to restorative justice and equity for Black Portlanders.”

For at least one very important person who holds considerable sway in the Albina neighborhood and in policymaking circles, the new logo isn’t such a great fit either.

After I shared the new logo on Twitter today, Albina Vision Trust Board Chair, Meyer Memorial Trust Chief Investment Officer, and longtime ODOT skeptic Rukaiyah Adams didn’t mince words when sharing her opinion:

“Rebranding the project after the rebranding of the neighborhood that followed the use of eminent domain. Evoking Albina with the building roof, but calling it the “Rose Quarter”, which was never actually designated for the neighborhood is a poke in the eye to community. Wow.”

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ivan
ivan
4 months ago

Wow, that is just shameless.

Matt
Matt
4 months ago

The fact that anybody thinks a highway project needs to have an effing “brand” is disgusting.

maxD
maxD
4 months ago
Reply to  Matt

Matt,
I 100% agree. And this is even worse: ODOT is spending public money intended for transportation on a “branding” consultant. They are literally trying to trick people into buying into an image or idea because presenting the facts has proven to be unpalatable. It makes me sick, it will probably work (marketers have proven to be very good at selling crap), but IMO it should be illegal.

cmh89
cmh89
4 months ago

Don’t mind us ya’ll, we’re just a panderin he’r.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
4 months ago
Reply to  cmh89

To be fair, there is reflexive condemnation of anything ODOT does.

Dan
Dan
4 months ago

Like the crew of the Titanic rechristening their ship after hitting the iceberg – it’s still sinking

Frank Perillo
Frank Perillo
4 months ago

Not only pandering, but I bet pretty much nobody has any idea what it represents.

Bill Stites
4 months ago
Reply to  Frank Perillo

I immediately got a sinking feeling, “that looks like the old drugstore dome I’ve seen in old photos”. Sad to say I was right.
ODOT needs to be revamped, top to bottom.

rain panther
rain panther
4 months ago
Reply to  Bill Stites

Yeah, my first reaction was: Wow, is that supposed to be the King Building cupola – why would they think that’s a good idea??

Drew Williamson
Drew Williamson
4 months ago

Ladies and gentlemen, late capitalism. *polite applause*

Mark in NoPo
Mark in NoPo
4 months ago

You seem to have misspelled “government boondoggle.”

Drew Williamson
Drew Williamson
4 months ago
Reply to  Mark in NoPo

I think at this point, they’re basically synonyms. The powers that be feel its a win for social justice by spending an unbelievable amount of money to build a cap over the freeway which will, in the end, do absolutely nothing to enhance equity or restore the former Albina neighborhood while perpetuating auto dependency and climate warming emissions. But it all needs to be branded, packaged, and promoted in the same neoliberal style as any other business.

I can’t imagine how many better ways $1.4billion dollars could be spent in ways that would truly promote equity. How many units of social housing for our houseless friends everywhere? Most of the traffic backups would be largely reduced by closing the on-ramps to I-5 north/southbound from Rose Quarter area.

Mark in NoPo
Mark in NoPo
4 months ago

This is a government project being done in my name and yours. Calling it “late capitalism” is too clever by half.

JaredO
JaredO
4 months ago

Reminds me of the old note: subdivisions are named after what they destroy, like “Green acres” “Quail ridge” “East Meadows.”

Nothing like branding a highway expansion after what was torn down for highways.

mh
4 months ago

I saw it and immediately thought of a Russian Orthodox church. ‍♀️ I doubt that’s what ODOT wants to plant in my mind.